Host Parent Interview With Lisa Sanabria

Host Parent Interview With Lisa Sanabria

This blog post is part of the host parent interview series where we get to know other families who are hosting au pairs. Every family is different and we like to represent a variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at [email protected] if you are interested.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m married to my amazing husband, Eric. We have 2 great kids, a boy and a girl, both elementary school age. We live in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

So far we’ve only had one au pair from South Africa who joined us in August of 2019 and was due to leave this summer. We matched with our second au pair before things got crazy with COVID but now can’t get a visa. Luckily, our current au pair decided to extend 6 months, which takes us out to the end of January 2021. Our next au pair is thankful for our current au pair’s extension and is willing to wait.

Lisa Sanabria and familyI’ve had some unique experiences that have somewhat prepared me for my au pair. Since 2003 we’ve welcomed interns from a large company I used to work for. It’s hard to keep track, but at this point I’ve had more than 160+ college kids live with us. Most of our interns are from various parts of the US. We’ve also had quite a few international interns. They grew up in India, China, Portugal, Columbia, etc. and moved here for college or graduate degrees.

We are social people and have enjoyed the diversity in our life. Of course, there have also been some challenges (which make for some interesting stories over the years).

I also was a residence assistant (RA) in college and had over 500 girls per year on my floor to host, welcome, and oversee. It really feels like a lifelong passion to be a facilitator of young people.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

Before we had children, we would host lots of gatherings for the interns’ friends at our house.

I first learned about au pairs from some Swedish au pairs that worked for one of my colleagues. Years later, when we were pregnant with our first child, we remembered about the au pair program. We signed up with Cultural Care, based on that colleague’s recommendation.

We interviewed an amazing German au pair who helped her mom run a daycare from their home. Unfortunately, we learned that you could only schedule au pairs for 45 hours a week. With both of us working, we’d need more like 60 or 70 hours.

Then we learned that my husband’s employer, The Home Depot, was opening a brand new onsite daycare run by Bright Horizons. This solution was great while the kids were young.

When my son entered kindergarten we had to switch to a local after-school daycare. That’s when we started getting calls that he was getting in fights, etc. and we had to come get him. This was very unlike my child and it was also very disruptive for me at work.

We hobbled by until almost the end of his first grade year. At this point we’d been through at least 3+ after-school programs. None had the patience or oversight to watch and understand what was going on.

Then I remembered another colleague’s advice that getting an au pair became easier once both kids were in elementary school. With my daughter starting kindergarten and my son entering 2nd grade, I re-looked at the hours we would need. It was more like 30 hours. Much more doable, and we could add a few date nights or errands in.

We jumped right in and signed up with several agencies and began interviewing. The rest is history and we haven’t looked back.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

Since we were already signed up with Cultural Care, we reactivated the search there. We also signed up for another agency, GoAuPair, to see what the differences were and to broaden our search.

We also signed up for Au Pair in America but were rejected due to having college interns who only stay for 4 months at a time. They saw this as instability for our au pair and thought it would be difficult for her to bond and then say goodbye. (Personally I thought this was ridiculous. Isn’t this what we do with au pairs?)

We ended up getting our au pair from GoAuPair. Cultural Care had a bigger database and slightly better search function but our best match was with a South African young lady with GoAuPair.

Our current au pair was supposed to go home on August 1, 2020. We asked her to extend in March but her family experienced a lot of tragedy this year and she felt she had to go home and comfort them.

We were all sad but I jumped back into the agency searches. This time I went even broader. My best chance of finding the best match is to have the biggest pool to search from. I reactivated Cultural Care and GoAuPair, then added Au Pair Care and Au Pair International.

This time we matched with another South African from Au Pair International. I was pleasantly surprised when I compared all four agencies. Au Pair International was the cheapest by almost $2000 when compared to Cultural Care.

We were all set, and then COVID wreaked havoc. My second au pair’s visa appointment on June 23rd was canceled and moved to mid-September. Luckily, my current au pair decided to extend 2 months which put her out to October 1st. Safe again.

Then more havoc, with President Trump’s Executive Order banning overseas au pairs until at least 2021. Luckily, my current au pair decided to extend again, so we’re good until January 31, 2021. Now we’re crossing our fingers nothing else happens. What a wild ride!

On the bright side, both my current and future au pair have been very communicative and understanding of everything.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

As an engineer, I have a very analytical background. I did a ton of reading about au pairs and hosting. I read about not only regulations and life with au pairs, but how host families succeed and fail and all the learnings in-between.

A big help both times around was reading the blog I also joined several Facebook groups as this COVID mess blew up, to learn more, and get immediate feedback.

Armed with all this info, I printed out every list of suggested questions I could find and starred what I thought was most important.

Our first basic requirement was for an au pair with mastery of English, so we’d set the filter as mastery or just under. My oldest, who has ADHD, struggles to communicate well. We need someone who can jump right in and be the role model for communication.

We also wanted a strong swimmer since we have a lap pool in our backyard.

Beyond this, I read a lot of profiles. I sent our family’s profile to anyone who didn’t say something that sounded crazy and seemed to fit the basics, then let them decide if we should explore further.

Our profile is very detailed.

On the positive side, Atlanta is a big city with lots to do, but also close to mountains, waterfalls, and nature. Another big selling point is that we like to travel and will take our au pair with us.

On the other side, being an au pair for our family comes with some challenges. My son with ADHD needs a lot of patient repetition. Both my kids are close in age and have a love-hate relationship. My au pair needs to be a referee (unfortunately). I have the schedule detailed out so they can see that they need to work a few hours each weekend. Perhaps the biggest thing against us is that we don’t provide a car.

Armed with all this info we get a 60% acceptance rate.

One mom from likes to call this method, “Dare to match with us.” A little extreme, but I like to weed out those who might be coming with rose-colored glasses and think their year is just going to be a party.

Once they get here, we shower them with love and make them family. But I need to get priorities and personality set up front.

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

As described early we put a lot of detail into our family profile and handbook.

Our current au pair was the first one we interviewed, and we had a good feeling about her but didn’t want to rush into it. We interviewed three or four more but each one we kept comparing back to her.

This is when it really sunk in that she was for us. We interviewed her 3 times, and at the end of the third interview we offered her the position. We all cried happy tears.

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

We looked up all the South African restaurants in Atlanta. We had our au pair inspect the menus and pick what sounded best, then we went and enjoyed the cuisine. It was enjoyable. My son loved his spaghetti…little did he know he was eating ostrich. =)

Q: Have you had any trouble with your au pair? How did you resolve it?

I think we got really lucky the first time around, as our au pair has immediately clicked in the family and is really mature. Overall, she’s been great.

A little over four months in, my son’s IEP teacher called. He mentioned during class one day that he was afraid to tell the au pair when his sister was being mean to him.

Apparently, the au pair had been trying to encourage them to solve their own problems. She told them if they were fighting they needed to figure out how to resolve it on their own. Sometimes when they earned free time she would put her headphones on. He didn’t know how to deal with his sister trying to hit and scare him.

I was shocked, because my au pair is so loving and patient with them. On the other hand, we all know that too much time with little ones fighting all day can drive anyone crazy.

So after kid bedtime one night, we sat down together. We let her know ahead of time we wanted to talk about how our son was doing in school. The first half of the school year just ended and we had completed teacher conferences, so I don’t think she was expecting any more than that.

We told her some general things that he was supposed to work on. Then I said I thought she was doing great, but that there was one story that the teacher told that we needed to talk about.

I shared the story and my au pair started crying. I hugged her and told her that I understood. The fact she was crying only showed how much she loved the kids.

We talked about an improved way to respond. They should learn how to resolve their differences. If they needed help she could be there with suggestions on how to work through it WITH them.

The three of us then talked with the kids and let them know the changes.

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this first au pair experience has gone. I’ve occasionally asked how things have been going, and my current au pair is thrilled.

I continue to read suggestions on how to welcome new au pairs, so next time I’m going to print my new au pair’s pictures from her profile and put them in her room.

I’m also going to warn her to bring an empty suitcase and think ahead about how much she buys when she’s here, and how she will be able to get it home.

Beyond that, not much.

I will ask my au pair one last time about a month before she leaves what my husband and I can improve. Maybe she can write a welcome and advice letter to leave for the new au pair.

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of welcoming au pairs)?

Really figure out what’s most important to you about your au pair’s personality and skills. We all want the moon and stars for our children and family but no one’s perfect.

For instance, my au pair isn’t a slob but she isn’t much of a cleaner either. This is ok for me because she loves my children and actually enjoys playing with them, even when she’s not on duty. I can give up having a perfectly clean house for the extra play and joy my children get, and the extra few peaceful moments I get.

Also, realize finding someone just like you first of all is impossible and also might not be the best fit. I’ve read stories from people who are take-charge, detailed, in-control people and think an au pair like this might be good. But then they butt heads on who’s taking charge.

Think through some scenarios and how you want your au pair to fit in with your family. Write these skills and personality traits down and search for it.

Q: Do your au pairs talk with each other?​

Once we were down to our final two au pair candidates we asked our current au pair if she’d be willing to talk with them. We asked her to be a sounding board for whatever questions our new au pair might have about us.

Our current au pair didn’t have to tell us anything about the conversation unless there was something completely awful she felt we should know.

We requested they speak in Afrikans so they wouldn’t worry that we were listening in.

They talked for 15 to 20 min and my current au pair says she likes her. I know that we are all on social media together and they talk a little, but not a ton.

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

Our au pair has changed our life for the best, 100%.

One example: my son was at an end of Kindergarten level of reading when my au pair arrived in August 2019. Now, not quite a year later, he’s at a beginning 3rd grade level. He jumped two whole grade levels in one year! Amazing!

The few times we are not with our au pair, my kids say, “I wish she was here so I could show her this.”

My husband and I are also able to get a few more chores done, and a little more alone time together. Our stress level has definitely gone down. We are truly family, and will love her forever!

For all the reasons above, I started a new YouTube Channel, American Au Pair Host Mom. I share tips, tricks, advice, and the amazing opportunities families have with the au pair program. I’d love for the My Au Pair and Me family to check it out and share your feedback!

How has your au pair dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our au pair is an old soul, we are so lucky again in this area. She has au pair friends through social media that she chats with.

Even before COVID, she wasn’t too keen on a lot of outings. Now that it’s hit, she doesn’t go out except to take walks or bike rides.

She’s very concerned about not getting sick and not getting us sick either. So we watch a lot of movies together and sometimes go out on a nature hike to a waterfall.

Follow Us

Host Parent Interview With Jenny Coleman

Host Parent Interview With Jenny Coleman

This blog is part of the host parent interview series where we get to know other families who are hosting au pairs. Every family is different and we like to represent the variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at [email protected] if you are interested.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Au Pairs enjoying a sunny day by the waterHi there! So just to tell you a little bit about us. I am Jenny, I am 44 (nearly 45…but the last few months of being 44 are VERY important!) I am married to Julian (52) and we are coming up to our tenth wedding anniversary. Julian and I both work within the emergency services.

We have two children, Megan age 11 and Emily age 7. We also have two dogs, Rosie (a Welsh Springer) and Lacey (a working cocker.) To add to this family, we have 11 amazing au pairs who have been a HUGE part of our lives in the last ten years.

We live in Penarth in Wales – UK. Penarth is a very diverse and beautiful seaside town. It’s an affluent area, but full of middle aged professionals or retired people. It’s mainly a family based area with exceptional schools. We live slightly outside of our pay bracket, but to us a home for au pairs and children to grow up in, you cannot ask for a better set up.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

I was traveling the UK, lecturing on a specific topic related to work, and met an amazing woman from the World Health Organization. I stayed overnight with her around 13 years ago and I was introduced to her au pair. I didn’t really understand what an au pair was until this point. I had a nanny as a child, as my mother was single at the time and also worked within the Emergency Services.

My husband and I live over three hours away from my parents and siblings, and he has no family, so when I got pregnant I panicked a little. I was worrying about how we would cope with the demands of our jobs and a child. My position demanded 18+ hour days most of the time, so I knew that conventional nannies or nurseries were never going to work for us. I recalled the au pair I had met and started to do some research.

I learnt that an au pair was a person 18-30 looking for a cultural exchange, who in return lived in with you. One thing I noticed about the au pair I had originally met, was that she wasn’t really a part of the family. She went to her room as soon as her chores were complete. I definitely didn’t want this. I didn’t want a ‘live in’ maid or ‘servant’ – I wanted an extension on our family and a friend. My au pairs have all become so much more than ‘a friend’ – they have become surrogate daughters to both Julian and I.

Q: Why did you use an au pair (instead of daycare, nanny, etc.?)

We love our au pairMy hours of work can be in excess of 18+ a day. I never wanted either of my children to be bounced between friends or family. To be rushed to breakfast clubs or after school clubs. I also, (as much as I hate to admit it) am not the most maternal of people.

An au pair for me, offers stability, routine, friendship, a big sister, a confidant, love, fun and support for my girls. Personally, they have each made me grow as a person. They have been there through some of the worst times of my life, been a pillar of strength, a shoulder to cry on. They have told me off, made me see sense, laughed with me, cried with me, drank copious amounts of wine and danced around the house with me. They have only extended my family for the better.

If something serious happens at work, meaning I have to stay on (sometimes this has been for days – I literally have not seen my children for a week at a time, and this happened quite often before I changed departments)…I was always able to relax, knowing they were safe, in routine, homework done, a hot and healthy meal in their tummies and to bed on time. We ensured that the time and hours worked by the au pair was made up and paid back.

Thanks to the love and dedication of my au pairs, I have two happy, emotionally well balanced and bright young children.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

I have always used AuPairWorld. AuPairWorld was the first site I ever tried. It was easy, I liked the search criteria and ‘easy find’. I was able to easily contact and message potential au pairs through their messaging system, and the cost was relatively inexpensive. I also like the fact that the searching and the decision making was entirely left to me as the host. I much prefer this concept over an ‘agency’.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

Generally I wanted au pairs who had no previous experience of  ‘au pairing’. This was mainly because I wanted the experience to be one that we went through together, and there was no comparison to others. I wasn’t concerned about childcare qualifications. I looked for a warm face and personality. I generally skipped over any au pairs who had a pouting ‘kiss blowing’ photo, or half naked photo as their profile pic. I looked for someone who was family orientated and loved animals as well as children.​

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

I would ‘like’ and message quite a few au pairs that matched my search criteria. I looked for those that replied, and engaged rather than just sending a notification. I always tried to make my profile letter funny and honest. Most au pairs said they loved this and it stood out from people that just listed chores and needs. For me an au pair is not about the chores it’s about the engagement. Of course, helping with general household jobs is part of the role. But they would never be asked to do anything that I wouldn’t do, or that I wouldn’t give my kids to do. Both of my children help the au pair with the hoovering and polishing when they can. I am a bit of an OCD freak, so I would always do this when I can or do with the au pair.

Anyway, back to the question…I would whittle down the search by responding to those that asked questions and genuinely seemed interested in the children, their likes and dislikes, hobbies, interests, schooling, music etc etc. Both of my girls play the piano, one to a high standard. For a brief period, I looked for au pairs with musical knowledge, but I found that this didn’t work and it limited my choice. All the au pairs I have had joined in with the children and started to learn music for themselves, I loved this. 

Once I had the au pair choice down to three or four, I would Skype with them. Speaking clear and fluent English was a criteria I did look for…so Skyping gave me a good sense of their language skills. It also demonstrated their real interest and desire. For me, au pairing is about experiencing a new culture through a family and being part of that family – this, in the main, was what I looked for.

After I had chosen my au pair and offered them a home to come to, I would then get them talking to my previous au pairs. Each au pair was told to be 100% open and honest with the new family member. This meant good and bad. Each family has good and bad points and there is absolutely no point in trying to hide anything. 100% transparency is definitely the key to a successful relationship.

Once the new au pair had a few weeks engaging with the current and old au pairs, I would then start about four weeks of Skyping with the children. They would slowly build up a rapport with both girls and the current au pair. The girls would play games with them online, and generally build up a rapport. I always found this eased the transition for everyone. 

Photobooth costumes with host family and au pairsQ: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

Oh where do I start? We have sooooo many funny stories from each and every au pair. From first time drunken nights out, to wearing goggles whilst cleaning the shower. Spraying nappy poo’s when Megan was a baby, to dancing around the kitchen. I have endless videos of the girls and au pairs singing to songs, dancing, playing, camping, surfing, dog walking. You name it – we have done it. These memories are treasured. I have belly laughed with each of them… sometimes so hard that a little bit of pee (apologies for the graphic description) may come out. Honestly, the fun we have had is irreplaceable.

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

Vacation with past au pairsWe have had au pairs from Australia, Austria, Holland, and Sweden. The majority of our au pairs are Swedish, and our new au pair due to start after lock down is also Swedish.

Last May we traveled to Sweden and as one big group (au pairs and the Coleman-Humphreys family) we hired a big Airbnb in Gothenburg, right on a lake. We had a long weekend together and the Swedes showed us around. We ate Swedish food, visited national parks, and had a stunning and valuable few days away.

Here at home, we try to cook national foods. Most of my au pairs love to bake and cook. I’ve woken to the fresh smell of cinnamon buns, and eaten lovingly prepared dishes from their home country. The girls are introduced to games from each country, and we have had each set of au pairs parents and siblings also over to stay. Some au pairs have had their boyfriends to live with us for a few weeks. They have engaged with the kids just as much as the au pairs have – and my girls have grown really close to them also. We try to learn cultural traditions and celebrate their own national holidays.

I have always told my children that they are the luckiest children in the world – they can literally travel the world and have a second home to go to in each of the countries. I know that they are always welcome and will remain part of each au pairs family, forever.

Q: Have you had any trouble with your au pair? How did you resolve it?

Life is not a bed of roses. An au pair is a person who you watch and help grow, emotionally and mentally. They are away from everything they know and love, and whilst this is an exciting time for them, they can get home sick and feel sad. I have had au pairs feeling very low and down at times. It’s a really hard job at times. Overnight they are becoming a parents, friend, big sister, and more. It’s a lot of pressure for them and that has to be remembered. I loved Japan when I was younger, and I always tell my au pairs that it took me three months to stop feeling homesick. This is very normal. I find it takes time and patience for everyone to adapt. 

We have a complete open and honesty policy in our house. If there is something they don’t like, or worried about, they are allowed to say it. They won’t be judged, and vice versa… we will adapt and change accordingly. It took me a while to learn how to adapt, and there are mistakes I made with some of my first au pairs that I don’t make now. I guess as a person and family we have grown also.

I have had a couple of au pairs who have started and we have had to return home. We have had to find a new aupair very quickly and that’s made the transition harder. I say harder, because we have 3-4 weeks where the old au pair helps transition the new aupair. When one has been replaced because its not ‘worked out’ its been difficult to transition so seamlessly.

One example of such, was when I was pregnant with Emily. Sofie looked after Megan who was 4, me who had hyperemesis gravidarum and was very very ill, and also a poorly puppy (Rosie had IMPA). I would just like to add at this point, that the love and care Sofie gave us, made us not only very close, but exceptionally grateful. I love her like a child of my own, and she literally saved my life.

Hanna started with us when Sofie was due to leave. As the weeks went on, I started to get concerned about Hanna. She wasn’t engaging with Megan at all. When Sofie left – all communication stopped… and we agreed to part ways. I think it must have been very difficult for Hanna, seeing how close Sofie and I were, but also with me being very poorly and constantly in and out of hospital.

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

Our next au pair, Thea, starts with us in June and our current au pair, Mary, leaves us mid May. Unfortunately this is because of the restrictions of the lock down. It means that Thea will miss out on building a relationship with Mary, whilst gently being transitioned into the role. If the girls are home still and being home-schooled, it’s even more pressure on her. This is going to be a first for us, and we will just take each day as it comes.

As I have had more and more au pairs, I have learnt to park my OCD, and accept that the house doesn’t need to be spotlessly clean and tidy, timetables have a habit of going out of the window, and there are bad days as well as good days.

To start with – I think I expected too much. But with the help of my au pairs I have grown as a person and seen myself develop and  become more accepting. We have rows like any parent and teenage daughter would – but we have the respect and closeness to talk and park it. Learn from it and adapt.

I would urge any one having an au pair to just be ‘human’ and treat them as you would want someone to treat your son or daughter. Never forget that they are someone else’s son or daughter. They deserve to be treated with love, kindness, and fairness. They are not a housemaid or servant, they are part of your family. 

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of welcoming au pairs)?

Be accepting, open, and committed. Make the au pair part of you and your children’s lives. Embrace the experience. Become friends. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, but do it diplomatically. Take them with you on holiday and out for walks, bike rides, swims, meals etc. This is a relationship for life. They are here to learn and grow with you. Remember that they are new to this, and still young. Treat them as you would want someone to treat your own child. Enjoy the experience. My life is enriched because of my au pairs, and I owe them the world.

Q: Have you had a gap or overlap when transitioning between au pairs?

Yes – we have four weeks of having two. The first week, I let them sleep and find their feet. They join in when they want…and generally get a feel for the house.

The second week I like to see them engaging more with the kids and just having fun. The current au pair takes them on dog walks and shows them the town. They go to after school clubs with the kids so they know where to go and get to meet any teachers etc.Looking up at kids and au pairs

The third week they muck in with the housework and kids, meal prep etc…pretty much helping out the current au pair with everything. We will have family nights, go to the cinema, or out for a drink/meal etc.

The final week they totally take over. The current au pair has the week to pack, say goodbye to her friends, do a bit with the children and just get used to the idea of leaving. When they do leave it’s always emotional for everyone.

By the fourth week – I find the new au pair is very ready for the old one to go, and for them to put their own stamp in things. But in this time, the new and old au pair have made a new friendship and become part of the bigger group.  This method has worked AMAZINGLY for us. I am not looking forward to not having this option on this transition, but we will go with it and do the best we can.

Q: Do your au pairs talk with each other?​

Oh yes – we have one big family group. As a group we talk every day. We share problems, or funny stories, recipes and cooking tips. We play online games… together we try to meet up as much as we can. I am so happy that we all get along and that each of them have found new friendships through us.

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

This has only been a positive experience for us. I cannot imagine my life without them. I have alluded to how much I love each one. I love them all for their own personalities, and what they bring to our relationship. As a group I love how we all gell and come together for Megan and Emily.  I love the au pair community, but it’s not all a bed of roses. It’s hard at times, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Having an au pair is a game changer in terms of family life, it gives you back quality time as a family…just never forget that they are part of that family.

Follow Us

Host Parent Interview with the Jones Family

Host Parent Interview with the Jones Family

This blog is part of the host parent interview series where we get to know other families who are hosting au pairs. Every family is different and we like to represent the variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at [email protected] if you are interested.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Jones FamilyHello, we are the Jones family! We have two children, our girl is a toddler and our boy is a pre-schooler, two dogs, and our au pair from France. This is our 3rd au pair and they have all been from France (and yes the kids are learning French, but no my husband and I don’t know French!)

Our household is very busy with the many activities that we like to do to enjoy life in Denver, Colorado. We live within walking distance to downtown Denver. Both my husband and I work in technology and mainly work from home, however, we have outside hobbies as well.  We partly own a restaurant/gas station and several homes in downtown Denver that we rent. We love enjoying life and being active.

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

We found out about the au pair program from a family member who had many au pairs and raved about the program.

Q: Why did you use an au pair (instead of daycare, nanny, etc.?)

We chose to use an au pair for several reasons. We loved the idea of being exposed to a new culture and language for our children and ourselves. We like having a busy and full house.

Additionally, we wanted flexibility in childcare hours as we enjoy various activities while we’re not working. This flexibility affords us date nights or to play a sport on the weekend. Our lives are full and we get to all enjoy different activities because we have this flexible coverage.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

Our first au pair agency was Au Pair Care. I chose them because they had a wide selection of French au pairs.

We then switched to Cultural Care for the last two because they ended up having a wider selection of French au pairs. We stuck with French au pairs because initially we heard great things. After our first was such a success and the children were learning French we decided to commit to French au pairs (but who knows, we may switch at some point.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

When finding an au pair, I had an initial screening before interviewing; pictures with children, good driver, no smoking/drugs, no boyfriend, knows how to cook

Secondly, during the interview, I try to find out how kind and loving they are with children. I ask about their childcare experience, their discipline techniques, and activities they would do with the children.

I also ask if they like to be active, how well they drive, what their relationship is like with their parents, and what they like to cook.

From all of these questions I can also get a sense of their personality. I prefer, loving, responsible, energetic, and positive people.

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

It’s always a tough decision for me and it always ends up with two great candidates. I write all the pros and cons of both and then I ask several questions.

First, will they take care of my children very well (safety, love, care)?

Second, how compatible are they with our family as a whole?

Then, I follow my gut and which person feels lighter. My husband always leaves the final decision to me because I am the one interacting with the au pair the most, but this is a lot of pressure. The decision has never been easy. Thankfully, because I already had two great candidates that I have always ended up with great au pairs. I couldn’t go wrong either way.

For my current au pair, I also had two great candidates. However, I didn’t like some of the pictures that I saw on one of the au pair’s social media accounts. To be frank, the pictures were very provocative and excessive, not the same person that I interviewed with several times. I did approach her about it and let her know that I didn’t feel comfortable with those pictures. It was a tough conversation. I didn’t end up choosing her. I wasn’t sure which persona I could trust as her social media was vastly different.

Q: How has your au pair dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic?

I cannot rave enough how grateful we are to have our current au pair during this difficult time.

We’ve had our ups and downs over the last several weeks of self-quarantine. She has made the best of the situation. The children do several activities during the day and are getting some nice outdoor time in the backyard. Seeing her smiling face and positive attitude is tremendous. We know we are lucky!

Most of our schedule is the same in that my two children are not in school yet. However, our au pair was taking them on an outing once per day (ie. zoo, karate, gymnastics, children’s museum, swim class).

We’ve talked about the situation almost daily, discussing our concerns, fears, and future plans. She knows au pairs that have gone home. She wants to stay for at least 2 more months and if the quarantine remains then go home. She is looking at the positive in that she can focus on learning English and shopping online. However, her main attraction is traveling the US.

We understand where she is coming from and support her in whichever direction she chooses as this unfolds.

Q: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

My au pair made porcupine shaped cupcakes with chocolate chips as the quills. She said it is our family of quarantined porcupines.  It was a nice pick-me up with all of the current news of covid-19.

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

We always take our au pairs to the yearly western stock show. The western way of life is a large part of Colorado history. 

During the fall we visit a pumpkin patch and run the corn maze. None of the French au pairs have experienced anything like this before and they think it’s pretty cool. 

Last Christmas our au pair and her au pair friends made an authentic French Christmas dinner.  It was amazing!

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

I’ve learned that reviewing the house manual every week for the first month is very important, then every few months after that. There is a lot of information to remember and reviewing the manual reinstates what it takes to have a successful year with your family.

One reason is because the au pairs English improves over time and they understand more as time goes on.

Secondly, it avoids any conflict as it has been written down and agreed upon from the beginning.

For example, we have several child-related chores every week; diaper bag emptied on Tuesday, laundry on Monday and Thursday, new sheets on the beds every Monday. If any of these chores slip then it can be easily reiterated during that weekly review.

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of becoming au pairs)?

I let other host parents know what a great program it is! There are so many advantages from cultural sharing to someone helping with household, child-related chores.

I also recommend using the program to its fullest. The agencies I have used talk about au pairs helping out with cooking a few meals a week, some grocery shopping, and some light household cleaning that relates to them being part of the family. This extra help is tremendous with our busy household and we appreciate it.

We also stick with the rules: <45 hours per week, <10 hours per day. I’ve heard from other host parents and au pairs that some don’t utilize the cooking or others do 45+ hours. We respect the rules and our au pairs.

We make sure to make them feel part of the family and recommend including your au pair when doing various family activities. At the end of the program you will have another family member!

Q: Have you had a gap or overlap when transitioning between au pairs? 

With our second au pair we overlapped. It was nice to have the first au pair explain things in French when her English was in the beginning stages. Plus, it made her feel comfortable being in a new country. 

The third au pair did not have any overlap. The nice part was that everything was fresh and a new beginning. However, I noticed having overlap was more helpful than not due to language barriers and comfortability.

Q: Have you had an au pair take a travel month? How did that go?

Yes! Our au pair took a travel month and really enjoyed it. She was able to explore and come back and see us one more time before she left. It was very special for her to explore and be free from all obligations yet feel like she had a family in the US she could rely on during her travel month.

Q: Do your au pairs talk with each other?​

Yes, yes, yes…weekly our second au pair would call our first.  Now, our third au pair calls the other two. It’s amazing and they get to talk in French about their experience (hopefully all good). This last week during our toddler’s birthday the first two au pairs were on Zoom while we sang happy birthday. It was very special. We plan to do a small tour of France and visit all of our au pairs in a few years.  We are truly grateful!

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

Our family has been positively impacted by hosting au pairs. My children are exposed to another culture and language. My husband and I enjoy getting to know our au pairs and having a young adult in the house with fun energy.

Additionally, we have flexibility with our child care. My husband and I are able to schedule date nights.

Lastly, we end up becoming a family.

Follow Us

Interview with host parent Carrie

Interview with host parent Carrie

Interview with host parent Carrie

We’re starting a new series where we occasionally interview other host parents. Every family is different, and we like to represent a variety of views.

We’d love it if you’d consider being a guest on our blog. Message us on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at [email protected]

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Au Pair Host Mom Carrie with her kidsHello! My name is Carrie, and my husband Tony and I got our first au pair in 2014. Our daughter was a toddler and we had infant twin boys when she arrived.

We’ve had 5 au pairs altogether. I am still in contact with three of our pairs and really do think of them like daughters (or step daughters).

I was older when I had my kids (42 when the boys were born) and we lived in Bothell, WA when we had our au pairs. I worked full time in Seattle before I had my twins. I was expecting to go back full time, because we had opened up a gym that was still in start-up mode. Unfortunately, I was laid off 2 months after our au pair arrived! Rather than go back to work, I decided to start consulting instead. I don’t know how I would have survived that time without our au pair!

Q: How did you find out about au pairs?

I learned about them from a mom at the park, and once I found out about the twins, it seemed like a viable option for us.

Q: Why did you use an au pair (instead of daycare, nanny, etc.?)

We chose the au pair route for two main reasons.

First, I liked the idea of my kids getting to stay in their home environment. With the gym and later my consulting, our hours were unpredictable, so having someone live with us was a great option.

Second, the au pair program was also more affordable than other options.

Q: Which au pair agency (or agencies) have you used and why?

I’ve used Cultural Care and Au Pair Care.

We had a bit of a falling out with Cultural Care after our 2nd and 3rd au pair experiences and took a break from the program for almost two years.

Then when we decided to try again, we made a fresh start. I had been really impressed with the Area Director at APC, so decided to give them a try.

Q: What criteria did you use for finding your au pair?

We learned this as we went!! It was definitely trial and error, so I learned as much from our mistakes.

Au Pair Host Mom Carrie's TwinsOur first au pair was our unicorn! She was 18, from Brazil and spoke nearly perfect English. She had the same sense of humor as we do, was very calm under pressure, and very independent. She made friends and figured things out on her own. I didn’t realize how rare that was!

I have found that the more honest we are in the matching process the better.

Living in Bothell was a bit of a downer, because there wasn’t easy access to public transit. Two of our au pairs had accidents in our cars and two were from South Africa and never felt comfortable driving. Transportation was always an issue.

We had limited means, and with the start-ups we don’t travel. Add to that I work from home, which many au pairs don’t like. Add to that three little kids at home full time and we were probably not a first choice for a lot of au pairs!

We were a better fit for girls who wanted the family environment, were used to babies and noise and chaos, and didn’t want or expect a lot of luxuries.

Q: How did you decide which au pair to match with?

My process was to have an initial email exchange, then a Skype with me and them, and then one with the kids to see how they did. Then I’d email them our family handbook and ask them to look through it. I asked them to reply to see if it sounded like a good match, and if they were rules they could live with.

All that being said, in my experience, I’ve ‘just known’ the great matches and had to work to convince myself on the ones that weren’t so great. So much of it comes down to how well the mom and the AP get along. Especially when mom works from home!

Q: What is something funny your au pair did that you didn’t expect?

I was not expecting the differences in using the toilet/toilet paper!! That has been almost universally something we’ve had to explain 🙂

Q: What are some cultural experiences you’ve had with your au pair?

I’m Canadian, so we always included our Au Pairs in Canadian and American Thanksgivings. We would take everyone to Snoqualmie Falls.

One Au Pair came with us to Canada for Christmas with my family.

Q: Have you had any trouble with your au pair? How did you resolve it?

Out of five au pairs, we had two au pairs that ended very badly.

Our first (unicorn) au pair had planned to extend for a year and then left abruptly when she found out her grandma in Brazil was dying. I was in a panic! There was an au pair in rematch in Chicago who would have to go home to South Africa if she didn’t match in one more day. In her profile it said she was dealing with three toddlers and 2 newborn twins and was overwhelmed and needed a family with less kids. I had a feeling it was a bad idea to make a hasty decision. There were additional warning signs…never being able to get hold of her, drama around technical difficulties. I convinced myself it would be okay.

AFTER we matched I searched her social media profiles and realized she had a very different persona and social life than was a fit for us. The agency brushed off my concerns. As it turned out, her profile was wrong…she was only watching 3 kids and was overwhelmed. She had clearly misrepresented her experience with children under 2. I ended up making signs all over the house to remind her to fasten high chair straps, close baby gates, etc. Then she started sharing a lot of personal drama…enough that I was getting concerned. The agency finally did a psych eval on her and sent her home.

The match after her was also bad. She was from Mexico and after she arrived we realized she didn’t really speak any English. During the Skype calls she had her sister there and blamed the communication on bad reception. I think someone else did her written communication for her! She shared that she didn’t want to be an au pair. She wanted to study ballet in Russia, but her parents wanted her to go to the US first. She was very uncomfortable with me being in the house, and she wouldn’t talk to me when I was in the room. I asked her how we could fix things, and she said the only thing she wanted was for me to stay away from the kids when she was working. It was just awkward and uncomfortable.

When I asked the agency for help, they said considering this was my second rematch, maybe our family wasn’t a good fit for the program, and that au pairs should not be considered child care. Consider them more like exchange students who do a little bit of child care. She (the director) wouldn’t rematch our au pair unless we had a masters in adolescent psychology. So that’s why I stopped using that agency, and stepped out of the program for a year and a half.

Q: What are some things you wish you did differently (or you plan to do differently with your next au pair)?

Go with my gut! Lurk on ALL their social media accounts and pay attention to red flags and inconsistencies.

Just like hiring an employee…any drama prior to the offer is a huge red flag.

Beware of people who are too concerned about what’s in it for them.

Beware of people who say they want to be an au pair because they just love children because children do nothing but bring love and joy (because they obviously haven’t spent a lot of time with real children hahaha).

The better they can speak English and communicate, the easier it will be.

Q: What is advice you’d give to other host parents (or parents thinking of becoming au pairs)?

I’d say if you’re worried about someone living in your house, don’t be. The right match living with you is such a lift, you won’t even mind it. Most of the au pairs really want to experience American life and they won’t be home much on their off time.

At the same time, don’t treat it like you’re getting cheap live in child care. That’s not what’s being communicated to the girls. From what they’ve told me, the recruiters overseas are selling a year of vacation and study with a bit of childcare. If you have a lot of need for childcare, make sure au pairs understand that.

Be patient, and if you aren’t in an emotional or practical space to patiently welcome someone who will have needs and need time and help, hold off. They really rely on their host families to help them, especially at first, and sometimes they’re too scared to ask for what they need. It’s a tough spot to live with your new employer and feel like you have to be perfect.

I’ve learned to be patient and lower my expectations and it goes better.

Q: Now that you have an au pair, how has it impacted your family, good, bad, or otherwise?

I will say that I was worried about the emotional impact of having someone live with us for a year, or more and then leave. I thought the children would get too attached and then bereft when she left.

Turned out they were fine, but I was certainly bereft when a couple left!

The great au pairs and I are still friends and I really love them.

I am really glad we had (and are still having) the experience.

Follow Us